Georgetown : Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman informed the media that officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Homeland Security from the United States of America visited Guyana a few weeks ago and briefed top officials, including Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, about gold smuggling from Guyana.
Speaking at the ministry’s first press conference yesterday for the year at the Cara Lodge, accompanied by Minister within the Ministry Simona Broomes, Minister Trotman said that it was estimated that approximately 15,000 ounces of the precious metal was smuggled overseas weekly. According to Trotman, 50 to 60% of local production is lost to smuggling. “Indicators are that the gold is going to Brazil. It is going over the borders to Suriname, not to stay in Suriname but to go to Europe. It is being landed at Miami International Airport. It is being landed at John F Kennedy and it is going to the Middle East”.
It was clarified that a percentage of the smuggled gold originates from Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela, “passing through what could be weak or porous systems.”
The lead agency for investigating the smuggling is the Guyana Police Force which is being supported by the recently formed Anti-Gold Smuggling Task Force which is headed by Minister Trotman, and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Asked about reasons for the illicit trade, Minister Trotman proffered that some of it had to do with a better price being offered overseas, but also with “hiding income from government to avoid taxes altogether”.
He added that some may be using this method as a means of laundering money from ill – gotten gains, “so lowering the royalty, from the research we have, will not automatically lead to substantial higher declarations”.
There are several business operators under investigation, however, the Minister declined to name them. He stated, “If there are any persons of interest neither myself or any other minister will disclose who those persons are”.
The Ministry will be tightening its protocols with regards to gold exports which are being overseen by officials of the Guyana Gold Board and the Guyana Revenue Authority. Gold exports topped 451,000 ounces in declarations, in 2015.